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Home > CHEF SECRETS > New York Chef Secrets > Michael Vignola (The Secrets Behind Chopped Part 1 of 3)

Michael Vignola

The Secrets Behind Chopped

    Michael Vignola
Executive Chef Michael Jordan's The Steak House N.Y.C.

Always on the lookout for behind-the-scenes secrets, TravelsinTaste.com recently had the opportunity to chat with its resident steak expert, Executive Chef Michael Vignola of Michael Jordan's The Steak House N.Y.C. Having worked at such notable restaurants as Aquavit, Le Bernardin, The Monkey Bar and Strip House, Chef Vignola is known for his playful approach to classic, seasonal American dishes. A fashionista, Chef Vignola always plates his dishes with incredible skill and beauty that matches his equally incredible flavors. When we saw him in the Food Network's Chopped Halloween Battle, we therefore knew he'd come up with some wonderful delights -- no matter what he found in his basket. And, in fact, he did. During the battle, which aired on the Food Network on Oct. 19, 2010, he competed with Marja Samsom, Mike Solyn and Tess Middlebrook, all of whom had to create a three-course meal using canned pumpkin, malted chocolate balls, pie crust and lamb heart for the appetizer round; gummy teeth, flour tortillas, huitlacoche and black chicken for the entrée round; and kumquats, cheddar pennies, chipotle chiles and grasshoppers for the dessert round. Despite the challenge, Chef Vignola won not only the battle, but also its $10,000 prize.

TravelsinTaste.com: How did you end up on Chopped?

Vignola: I got an e-mail from Tanja, our PR person, asking me to fill out this questionnaire and write a little bit about myself. So, I filled out the questionnaire and wrote about myself, my childhood upbringing, where I've worked, etc. They called me back for a screen test. I went to the screen test and there were hundreds of applications. I was like, "Wow, there's no way I'm getting this." People were in and out in 15 minutes max. I sat in the screening room for 40 minutes to an hour. Before I knew it, they called me back and set my date. I filmed it in February. I had just moved.

TravelsinTaste.com: Wow, February until October. That's a long time. How do they ensure the word doesn't get out on who won before airing?

Vignola: It's a closed set -- you can't bring anyone. You can't text anybody during it. I had to keep silent from February through October. I couldn't say a word due to the contracts, so I was like, "Don't even ask me." I kept it quiet; my fiancé didn't even know. We're Italian loud mouths. My mother was dying to know, and my brother; they all wanted to know. You don't get a check until after it airs, so it's an incentive to shut up.

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